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the rriost remote chance of a diversion in our favour; and if we destroy his whole invading squadron, or annihilate his army after it lands, we have only obtained security until he shall make a second attempt. Formerly there were many serious obstacles to the project being tried ;—for, if he engaged in it, he had to apprehend that the powers of the Continent would seize the opportunity of attacking him; and he could not doubt that they would fall upon him, if he was repulsed,—while the people of France were likely to be disheartened, perhaps discontented by the failure. Now that the Continent is subdued, and left without the possibility of resisting for years to come, he has none of these dangers to think of;—our utmost efforts must end in barely defending ourselves. That the invasion will be attempted, too, with means which never before were at his disposal, cannot admit of a doubt. If he sets about it in good earnest—that is to say, if we make a grand exertion of this sort absolutely necessary, by refusing to treat—he has not only an abundance of soldiery quite unexampled in any country, but the power of obtaining ships and seamen both in the north and south of Europe. His points of attack are no longer confined to Brest, Boulogne, and the Texel. The north of Germany, the Danish dominions, and the Tagus, will in all human probability be added to his sea coast, or so far subjected to his influence, that he may use their harbours as his own. Whether the British navy can be suddenly augmented, so as to blockade every armament which he may fit out over this vast extent of coast,—and whether, if we had as many fleets as we now have ships, all the harbours capable of containing an armament are likewise capable of being blockaded, are questions that need only be stated to be answered.
If then we must at length, and indeed, expect to fight tlie battle on our own shores, it may be prudent to consider how dreadful the consequences would prove, even of the most unsuccessful war which France could carry on in this commercial territory. That it could not be a very short struggle, or indeed a contest perfectly free from the greatest of possible dangers, must appear evident to every one who reflects on the superior skill of the enemy's officers, the experience of his whole army, and the present state of Ireland. When the certain injury is so great—when there is a possibility at least of a still greater calamity—and when the utmost we can gain by such losses and risks is merely the repulse of the invader, leaving him nearly in the same situation as before, and odrselves much weaker; it becomes us to consider whether it would not be just as wise to terminate the war at present, if an honourable peace can be procured. We cannot possibly gain by continuing this contest.. On the contrary, such of our allies as remain steady to us
B b 4 will will be ruined; and the resourses of those who either are disposed or compelled to leave us, will be turned against us. The enemy is, in all probability, willing to treat once more—he thinks he shall gain by a peace the only thing which war cannot give him, colonics and trade ;—and, satisfied with subduing the Continent, he may be inclined to forego the chance of conquering us. If he really has no such views, and will only make peace upon extravagant terms, we must, of course, resolve to fight the battle out, and endeavour to forget by whom our safety has been endangered. But, in the present state of the Continent, if a peace can, upon tolerably good terms, be procured, it will surely be the height of folly to throw away the last chance of bringing back France to the pursuits of civil life, and rendering her a safe and quiet neighbour.
It is an exceedingly prevalent notion in this country, that the enemy is worse off than he affects to be, because he offers moderate terms to those powers whom he pretends to have conquered. He overruns Austria; and when he comes to talk of peace, he takes but a trifling part of her dominions, leaving her still a great nation. 'Is it possible ' say the reasoners to whom we are alluding ' that he can really have gained such victories? No ; he must feel that he can do no better ;—he is afraid—he has got into some scrape—there is something rotten at home—or he knows that he shall be defeated if the war lasts.' Such have been the inferences from the enemy's moderation in former treaties; and, no doubt, the peace which he is about to make with our allies, will be liable to the same remarks. Nothing, however, can be worse founded than opinions of this sort; and nothing can be more fatal, than the delusions to which they give rise. The enemy knows very well, that by taking something at present, he may get more hereafter; and he is aware that he can only continue master of the question of peace and war, with a neighbour whom he has defeated, by giving, in the first instance, moderate terms. If he did otherwise, the treaty might be broken at a moment which did not suit him. To encroach gradually after the war has ended, is a part of the same policy which teaches him to move rapidly while it continues. We must lay our account, then, with his not remaining quiet now, any more than he did after the treaty of Presburg. But to delude ourselves with the hope, that because he is moderate in his terms, compared with the successes which he claims, therefore his pretensions are false; and to derive from them another inference, that by keeping alive some war on the Continent, or at least continuing at war ourselves, as a rallying point to the allies we shall, in the end, beat him,—is a species of. folly which would be ridiculous, were it confined to a few, and productive of less melancholy effects.
It is common with the same class of politicians, to receive, as something akin to disaffection, every gloomy description of our own prospects, or those of our allies. When such a representation is made, they do not inquire whether it be true or false, although that is the only question; but they say, it tends to promote despondency. Those who fairly and honestly state the case as it is, are called prophets of evil, and preachers of despair—are plainly accused of wishing to see their own predictions realized— and more than suspected of assisting in their fulfilment. To all such thoughtless or designing persons, one answer may be sufficient. The evil foretold is a misery which must directly affect every human being in the country—it is an invasion of a large French army, either successful, or with difficulty repelled. This is a prospect which no rational creature can take any pleasure in contemplating. 'Then do not speak of it,' say the railers, 'it dispirits the people.' Not so—A nation, whom the timely view of their real fituation can difpirit, will affuredly never face the danger when it comes near. But it is very polfible to enfure a panic, with all its fatal confequences, among the braveft people, by feeding them with falfe hopes, ftimulating their natural fpirits by artificial means, and blindfolding them till the moment when the immediate approach of the danger requires them to act. Above all, a ftrong and general popular feeling againft peace is to be dreaded by every wife ftatesman, if it be the refult of fuch delufions; for, when the crifis is at hand, and the truth is known, a ftill ftronger averfion to the war is likely to feize the multitude, and all fpirit-ftirring topics will furely fail. The mifchiefs of fuch popular infatuation were felt, but in a very fubordinate degree, during the Grand Alliance war; when the general averfion to a treaty upon moderate terms broke off the negotiations ; and, being followed by an equally violent clamour for peace, brought" about the moft inadequate bargain that two nations ever made.
The wifer conduct is to look our fituation in the face, while there is yet time to better it. We have conftantly and glorioufly vanquilhed all our enemies at fea;—we have gained the moft honourable victories over fuperior forces by land;—we have fuffered not a fingle reverfe which can ftain our reputation. But our allies have been deftroyed, rather than conquered,—the world has need of repofe,—and the war can no longer benefit any one except our enemy. This is our fituation. We can lofe no honour by fairly agreeing to treat;—by yielding fomething to the misfortunes, not of ourfelves, but our friends—and by endeavouring to be realty at peace, as foon as we have put an end to the war.
Art. IX. Cobbetfs Political Register. 11 vol. 8vo. pp. innumerable. London 1802—1807.
WE are induced to take fome notice of this Journal, becaufe we are perfuaded that it has more influence with that moft important and mod independent clafs of fociety, which ftandsjuft above the loweft, than was ever poflefled before by any fimilar publication. Its circulation and its popularity are, We think, upon the whole, very creditable to the country. It is written with great freedom, and often with great force of argument. It flatters few national prejudices—except our love of detraction and abufe; and has often had the merit of maintaining bold truths, both againft the party in power, and the prevailing fentiments of the nation. It confifts, in general, of folid argument and copious detail; with little relief of general declamation, and no attraction of playfulnefs. It is a good fign of a people, we think, when a work of this defcription is generally read and ftudied among them. It can only be acceptable to men of fome vigour of intellect, and fome independence of principle; and it was, upon the whole, with feelings of pride and fatisfaction, that we learned the extent of its circulation among the middling dalles of the community, and the great fuperiority of its influence over that of the timid and venal prints, which fubfift by flattering the prejudices of a party, or of the nation at large.
The author's original anti-Jacobinifm was, like all other antiJacobinifm after 1800, extravagant, fcurrilous, and revolting. But this died away; and, for the three or four laft years, till very lately, his influence, we believe, has been rather falutary, and we have been well pleafed that fuch a journal fhould be in exiftence. Difgufted as we have often been with his arrogance; irritated by his coarfe and clamorous abufe; and wearied with the needlefs vehemence and difproportioned fury with which he frequently defcanted on trifles, we could ftill admire his intrepidity, and refpect his force of underftanding; and were glad to have a journal in which falutary truths could be ftrongly fpoken, and which might ferve as a vehicle for independent fentiments, and a record of neceflary, but unpopular accufations. With this general impreffion, we could eafily make allowance for the excefles into which the author was habitually betrayed, either by the defects of his education, or by his known political partialities ; and after fetting aiide his raving about the funds and the committee at Lloyd's—his trafh about the learned languages—and his ignorant fcurrility about Mr Malthus—we had ftill fome toleration in (tore for his zeal for the Bourbons, his horror at revolutions, and his jealoufy of the democratical part of our conftitution.
Within the laft fix months, however, he has undergone a moft Extraordinary and portentous transformation. Inftead of the champion of eftablifhment, of loyalty, and eternal war with all revolutionary age»cy, he has become the patron of reform and reformers; talks hopefully of revolutions; fcoffingly of Parliament; and cavalierly of the Sovereign; and declaims upon the ftate of the reprefentation, and on the iniquities of placemen and penfioners, in the very phrafes which have been for fome time laid afide by thofe whom he ufed to call levellers and Jacobins.
The inconfiftencies and apoftafies of a common journalift, certainly are neither fo rare nor of fuch importance as to deferve any notice from us. But Mr Cobbett is not quite a'common journalift; and his cafe is fomewhat peculiar. He has more influence, we believe, than all the other journalifts put together; atid that influence is ftill maintained, in a good degree, by the force of his perfonal character. He holds a high tone of patriotifm and independence; he puts his name to all his publications; and manfully invites all who dilTent from his opinions, to meet him in the fair field of public difputation. Another peculiarity in Mr Cobbett's cafe is, that he ftill ftoutly aflerts his confiftency; and maintains, that with a very moderate allowance for the exaggerations of a difputant, and for a£.tual changes in the pofition of our affairs, the doctrines which he now promulgates are the fame which he has held and expreffed from the beginning. He has neither professed to be converted like Mr Redhead Yorke, nor attempted to sneak silently to the other side like the herd of venal pamphleteers. Though our quarrel with him, therefore, be entirely on the score of the tendency of his later productions, the question of their consistency or inconsistency with his former professions is by no means indifferent to the issue. There are many who believe in him, partly at least, on account of the sturdy honesty to which he lays claim, and the tone of confidence with which he predicts what is to come, and pretends to have predicted whatever has actually occurred; and there are few, perhaps, of those who have received any impression from his writings, whose faith in his reasonings would not be diminished by a conviction of the inconsistency or versatility of his successive opinions, or a suspicion of the share that passion or party may have had in their formation. It is not, therefore, from any paltry or vindictive motive, but for the purpose of reducing his authority to its just standard, that we think it necessary, before entering upon the examination of his late doctrines, to make a few remarks on his title to the praise of consistency, and to exhibit some instances of what has certainly, appeared to us as the most glaring and outrageous contradiction.